Attempts to reach a plea bargain between crime boss Yitzhak Abergil and his brother, Meir, and the U.S. law enforcement authorities have failed. In recent months, the U.S. authorities and the brothers' American attorneys were in contact in an effort to eliminate the need for the scheduled November trial in Los Angeles of the two brothers and three of their associates.
The U.S. authorities deem Yitzhak Abergil the most dangerous of the five and attribute to him, among other things, charges of drug dealing and involvement in the murder of drug dealer Sammy Atias in Los Angeles, in addition to extortion.
The Americans charge his brother, Meir, with blackmailing U.S. businessmen to whom the brothers lent money obtained from embezzling the Israel Trade Bank. The contacts with the U.S. authorities were started there before the brothers' extradition by a lawyer they hired. At this point, however, the U.S. authorities, who have invested tremendous human and financial resources in proving the guilt of the five men, and in continent-spanning investigations, refuse to budge and continue to gather evidence ahead of the trial's opening.
People involved in the negotiations did not rule out the possibility yesterday that the contacts could continue until the start of the trial.
At the end of last week, Asi Vaknin was arrested in the U.S. The Americans allege he was blackmailed along with his brother, Hai, after receiving over $1 million from the bank embezzlement scheme which he was to launder. To the best of anyone's knowledge, Vaknin was arrested for past criminal cases that were unresolved.
Over the last few days, the possibility has been raised that the U.S. authorities will seek to exert pressure on Vaknin to get him to testify against the gang.
In the past, Vaknin claimed he was not blackmailed and not threatened by the brothers or their associates, and even submitted an affidavit to that effect to the court hearing the extradition request for the brothers and their partners.
Notably, over the past two months, another person involved in the case has been in jail, Gabi Ben Haroush, who was arrested in Los Angeles together with his wife, Sima, on charges of immigration law violations.
Ben Haroush, a key figure in the indictment against the brothers and their partners, in the past reached an arrangement with the U.S. authorities and was not sentenced to a jail term.
Even after his arrest, there was speculation that the U.S. authorities are looking to pressure him into testifying against the brothers.